Two years ago I set off on my walk across the estuary of North Kent and begun writing my book, On the Marshes, which is due out next year. On that first walk I passed a beautiful barn, Frindsbury Barn and wrote the piece below.
On the Marshes – Deleted Scene – May 2014
“There was another place my mind turned to. A place I had passed on a quiet lane as I had pounded wet and tired into Strood on a Bank Holiday Monday last May. I had seen a footpath leading away through long grass and then a glimpse of a red roof and, despite it all, I had been intrigued and taken a diversion. There I had found a beautiful black barn, ancient, peg tiled, set on a chalk ridge commanding a view of the river. Two wings projected out from the barn doors, little slatted windows could be seen further along and one end rose several stories high. It was set within a meadow of vetch and cat’s ear and yarrow, the kind of place where bee orchids bloomed. It was surrounded by high metal fencing, one end covered in scaffolding. A sign on the door read, ‘Unsafe, do not enter.’ It was magnificent and vulnerable. I wanted it.
For one moment I entertained a vision of buying the barn with crowd funding, restoring this beautiful building to the people of Medway and creating a centre where I could showcase that there was an alternative way to live. Still, there was. There was still a way to live that was in tune with nature, in tune with the seasons and the basic needs of humanity. We would run courses where ordinary people could learn the skills to lead a more sustainable life. Where the unemployed, the drug dependent, people on probation and those suffering from all manner of 21st century meltdowns could work outdoors with their hands, learn skills and achieve something which would set them back on the right road in life. We would run meetings where we would decide how to work as a community to protect this beautiful area from the ugliness which was poised to engulf it. We would all leave, chilled and purposeful and walk down the hill to the train station. There would be no parking.”
Today I visited this beautiful building as part of the Heritage Open House scheme and found out that all my dreams look likely to come true. The owners are planning to convert the barn using apprentices and farm the surrounding land using traditional techniques. It is a project I very much hope to be a part of but still needs funding to see it reach its potential. Find out more here.